Tuesday, 8 September 2015

laptops in the classroom are not the problem - it is the lack of engagement

An interesting discussion on CBC's The Current about whether or not laptops should be banned in the classroom. I am glad that the second interviewee takes a more nuanced view than this oft cited study from last year by Mueller and Oppenheimer. The argument is that students do not think about what they are taking notes about in class when using a laptop whereas taking notes by hand requires more cognitive effort on the part of the student and thus produces better retention/learning of the taught material. However, this assumes that the classroom is the place where information is imparted from the instructor to the student. I agree with Chris Buddle in this interview that if we understand learning to be an act of knowledge construction within the learner, then the classroom should be a place where this is supported. Classrooms and the teaching that goes on in them need to be redesigned re-imagined such that students are actively engaging with the material rather than only taking notes.

Don't get me wrong - there is a place for note-taking. But that is certainly not all that should be going on inside of our classrooms. And active learning instructional strategies often are able to capitalize on laptops/tablets/smartphones as a learning tool for personal response systems, crowd sourcing research, or collaborating on a common project.

Educational technologies can be used poorly or ignored resulting in a distracting learning environment. But if they are properly used, they can enhance the active engagement students can make with course material.


Bart M. December 5, 201. How Technology Can Improve Learner-Centered Teaching. Faculty Focus.

Carr N. 2010. The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. New York, NY: W. W. Norton.

Mueller P.A. and Oppenheimer D.M. 2014. The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking. Psychological Science, 25: 1159-116.

Tremonti A.M. September 07, 2015. Laptops in classrooms distracting students, teachers call for ban. CBC - The Current.

Weimer M. February 20, 2015. Why Students Should Be Taking Notes. Faculty Focus.

Weimer M. January 30, 2015. How to Help Students Improve Their Note-Taking Skills. Faculty Focus.

Willis L. June 29, 2015. Using Google Web Apps to Improve Student Engagement. Faculty Focus.

Zipp G.P. June 11, 2012. Be Not Afraid: Embracing the iPad and the Wonderful World of Apps in the Classroom. Faculty Focus.